Front Royal panel talks potential for 750 acres

FRONT ROYAL — A developer could build hundreds of new homes in town but when that work begins remains uncertain.

The Planning Commission took an early look Wednesday at what the Front Royal Limited Partnership might have in store for the 750 acres it owns in town. Front Royal recently annexed 600 acres from Warren County following a lengthy negotiation process. Several residents who live in the area of the potential development also attended the work session.

The partnership could build up to 1,138 single-family homes on the 750 acres, though plans also call for the developer to construct a long-sought-after connector road.

David Vazzana, with Front Royal Limited Partnership, presented some information to the commission at its work session, laying out the potential development of the entire 750 acres. However, as Vazzana explained, the company likely would seek to develop the 150 acres first.

Vazzana told the panel he hopes to submit requests to the Planning and Zoning Department to change parts of the local zoning and subdivision regulations. The town rezoned the 150 acres to residential use in 2010 that would allow up to 320 single-family, detached homes on 7,000-square-foot lots. The partnership asked for changes to the local subdivision and zoning regulations in 2010 but was told to wait until the town updated the ordinance. That work is underway.

Changes requested in 2010 pertain to setbacks for housing units and garages as well as allowing various lot sizes as opposed to one. Vazzana also had asked that the town consider changes to its requirements for street widths. Vazzana told the panel that adjusting street widths is more easily done when creating a site plan but he needed to know earlier in the process the required street widths for the development.

Vazzana said the commission can expect to see amendments to the original proffers that pertain to other issues and interpretations of the conditions.

The commission is also working on an update to the Comprehensive Plan. Vazzana said he had intended to file a request to amend the plan to accommodate the potential development of the annexed land. Vazzana said Planning and Zoning Director Jeremy Camp suggested that he hold off on filing a proposed amendment to the comprehensive plan. The existing plan does not address land use for the annexed property.

Vazzana also revisited a map depicting the future land-use plan for the annexation area. The map showed four communities, areas for natural resources and recreation, open space and a school, village retail and office space along with the east-west connector road through the center.

The voluntary settlement agreement approved allowed the annexation of the 600 acres limits the development to 818, single-family units plus any authorized, age-restricting housing. The town must first rezone the annexed land from agricultural to residential use before any developer can move forward.

Commissioner David Gushee said he saw the age-restricted housing component as an attractive part of the development. Commissioners noted that the town and Warren County lack age-restricted housing options. Different-sized lots would require builders to construct various types of homes in the development, Vazzana said. Chairwoman Deborah Langfitt said she liked the idea of allowing lots of varying sizes in the development.

“Some of those ideas sound interesting, more interesting than cookie-cutter [homes],” Langfitt said.

Vazzana said he’s considering either to rezone the entire 600 acres at one time or piecemeal. Vazzana noted that transportation for the entire area remains an issue and voiced concern specifically about the intersection of Va. 606 and Happy Creek Road.

“As the rezoning becomes bigger, as we try to squeeze more stuff in here, we get to a breaking point where the economics just don’t work as far as improvements that would potentially be needed to the transportation system and, really, the biggest, most important aspect of that would be the timing of those transportation improvements,” Vazzana said. “Doing a $10 million road on day one is certainly not going to be viable in any way.”

The tap fees for utilities developers pay to the town and other construction costs also remain a concern, Vazzana said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or

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